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Fine dining recommendations in Paris

l
lucilp Apr 22, 2009 08:32 PM

My husband and I have a chance to dine out on our own without our young children for 1 night in May in Paris. I have been researching and is feeling a bit overwhelmed with the possibilities so I am really hoping to get some advice on where we should eat at that night.

Last year, we ate at L'atelier de Joel Robuchon and Senderen. I wasn't wowed by Senderen; the room (we ate upsatirs) and the service felt cold and the food was ok. We liked L'atelier de Joel Robuchon; the room was decidedly more friendly and relaxed and we both thought the food was more interesting. While we are tempted to go back to Robuchon again, I was hoping we could explore another restaurant that would give us similar vibe and quality of food.

On an off chance we could dine out another night, what would be a 2nd recommendation? We have eaten at Guy Savoy a few years back and really enjoyed our experience there but i think we are looking for a place a little less formal and not as $ this time, which I think rules out Le Cinq and other more traditional dining establishments. I was curious about Pierre Gagnaire, which from what I have read sounded interesting (and potentially divine) but was wondering about its setting and price?

Thanks in advance for any comments.

Lucille

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  1. souphie RE: lucilp Apr 23, 2009 01:31 AM

    First, if you want fine dining, you'll always have better deals for lunch. Otherwise, it's very complicated to end at less than 200p. La Table (not l'Atelier) de Robuchon for instance has a 55eur lunch menu all included (i.e. wine, water, cheese, coffee and three courses). Le Cinq or La Grande Cascade have 85€ prixfiexe lunches. Gagnaire is at 105€ and Passard at 135€. In general, there's nothing in most French restaurants you can only have for dinner -- everything that is offered for dinner is also offered for lunch.

    In the fine dining area, doing less formal than Guy Savoy is difficult -- he's the most casual of them all, along with l'Arpège. While doing less expensive won't be difficult if you had ALC prices at Savoy, it won't happen at Gagnaire where there is no course under 100€.

    Le Cinq, La Grande Cascade have 135€ prix fixe dinner menus. Ledoyen must be at 190€. They are definitely somewhat old fashion in terms of settings, but their staff is not snutty at all. They're on the contrary very commited to making yours a special time.

    In the mid-range dining (which more acurately describes places like Senderens or l'Atelier), I don't in general think there is good value -- prices are close to high end prices, especially if you're careful, but food is usually nowhere close. That said, I'd still recommend l'Angle du Faubourg in that category.

    By the way, you'll find pictures taken at all those restaurants in my gallery at Picasaweb.google.fr/zejulot . Well, not La Grande Cascade because the pics I took there are not processed yet...

    11 Replies
    1. re: souphie
      m
      mattmark RE: souphie Apr 23, 2009 10:26 AM

      Hi Souphie,

      I've been doing a lot of searching online for Paris recommendations and your posts have come up a lot!

      My future wife and I will be in Paris for part of our honeymoon. We have about 4 lunches and 3 dinners (we're landing into and flying from Paris). So far, we're planning on doing Gagnaire, d'Atelier Joel Robuchon for dinner and Alain Ducasse for lunch.

      I've noticed so many different recommendations, but if you didn't have any particular restraints, what would be your "must-eat" restaurants? They can be formal fine dining or just good eats.

      i was reading your l'astrance post and it seems you had an "okay" meal there. Have you been to Chateaubriand? l'Angle du Faubourg, le Cinq, Passard and La Grande Cascade, l'Arpege sound like recommendations - are these considered favorites? I'm asking because I know you're responding to Lucille's question,

      Thanks,

      Matt

      1. re: souphie
        l
        lucilp RE: souphie Apr 23, 2009 04:15 PM

        Thanks, souphie for your knowledgeable reply. Unfortunatley we would not be able to do lunch but will keep that in mind for our next trip. All the lunch suggestions sounded great.

        I may have to think about going for Le Cinq, la Grande Cascade or Leyoden instead based on your comments. Although if $ is not an issue, would you suggest going to Pierre Gagnaire over Le Cinq and others in that class?

        Thanks for pointing me to your picture gallery, it makes my mouth water.

        Lucille

        1. re: lucilp
          souphie RE: lucilp Apr 24, 2009 01:55 AM

          Lucille,

          About Pierre Gagnaire: I had my first good meal there ever last week (thanks to and with kphilbin!). It was the first time in ten years of trying (do I ever learn). Gagnaire is unique and wonderful, and many fine palates had some of their best meals ever. But Gagnaire is not a place where you can know what to expect. It's all about improvisation and surprise, about the genius of the chef. By the way, unlike many other placeds, I do not recommend going when he is in. My first good meal there was the first one when he wasn't in the house. Bottom line is: I'd only recommend Gagnaire to experienced fine diners, to people who value originality and innovation very high and to very adventurous and well-funded diners. More than other top restaurants, going to Gagnaire is like going to the opera or the theatre of taking a trip: you're taking a risk, and hoping it will be wonderrful and life-enriching. Sometimes it is.

          I can't give you a single recommendation for top restaurant, because as you go higher in price and quality, restaurants become more different and suit different tastes and expectations. There is no one size fits all in fine dining. The safest bets are le Cinq and Savoy because they have so many great features, starting with exceptional service. But l'Ambroisie and l'Arpège hold potentials for food orgasms. Gagnaire, as I said, is an always stimulating and surprising genius. Lasserre is the Paris you always dreamt of. Ledoyen is a unique mix of traditional approach to dining, molecular techniques, historical setting and somewhat solemn ambiance. Le Meurice or Alain Ducasse offer the ultimate luxury and a powerful magnifying social mirror. La Grande Cascade is probably the higher level of food skills in town, plus it's delicious and lost in the woods or almost. Gérard Besson is a demonstration of what traditional haute cuisine is. Michel Rostang is uniquely generous and convivial, the ideal place for a meeting of wealthy genuine food lovers.

          So there really is a question of what you like, what you expect, what the occasion is (you mentioned that). This is one reason why I am doing the photo gallery -- to help people make up their own mind based on what they see.

          It's much easier to tell you where the best steak frites is, or which are the best bistrots. Experiences there are not that different because they're not as rich (and expensive).

          Mattmark,

          I personally do not enjoy l'Astrance very much, but I recognize their talent, originality and novelty. My favourite part at l'Astrance is the wine pairing designed by the wonderful Alexandre Jean, the sommelier. One reason I do not enjoy L'astrance so much is that I'm not crazy about little bites tasting. Another one is that, as they are reinventing themselves, they're doing a lot of experimental, approximate things -- I feel too often that it could have been better though less original, and that's not my taste in fine dining.

          Le Chateaubriand I haven't been to yet but people whose palate I trust think highly of it and it is high on my list.

          Are you asking about my personal favorites? They would be, in no particular order Le Cinq, La Grande Cascade, Michel Rostang, La Véranda, Au Bon Accueil, Joséphine chez Dumonnet, Chez l'Ami Jean, La Régalade, Wally le Saharien, l'Auberge Bressane, L'Uitr, Le Bis du Sévero, Fish, Pasta e Basta, Likafo, Pho 14, Des gateaux et du Pain (bakery), Grégory Renard (macarons), eMayeur(their bread), Dubois (cheese).

          Of course I don't know all the eateries -- those who say they do are liars.

          1. re: souphie
            ChefJune RE: souphie Apr 24, 2009 06:49 AM

            ;) you "forgot" Oteiza!

            1. re: ChefJune
              souphie RE: ChefJune Apr 24, 2009 10:40 AM

              I did. Yum.

            2. re: souphie
              m
              mattmark RE: souphie Apr 25, 2009 02:52 PM

              Hi Sophie,

              Thank you for all the information - it will take a while to digest and research =)

              and if anyone else has their thoughts, please chime in!

              too many food opportunities in a small amount of time!

              Matt

          2. re: souphie
            r
            rcarver100 RE: souphie Apr 24, 2009 01:06 PM

            Two quick questions if I may - do you have a recommendation for a fine lunch, close to Arch D Triumph at a restaurant that is open on Saturday's? I had several recommendations for places but most seem to be closed on the weekends. I will only be in Paris on Saturday May 15th and would like to take my guests for a unique meal. Thanks!

            1. re: rcarver100
              s
              sethd RE: rcarver100 Apr 25, 2009 11:17 AM

              Le Cinq is about a 5 minute walk from the Arch.

            2. re: souphie
              Laidback RE: souphie May 14, 2009 02:31 AM

              Yesterday 4 of us went to La Grande Cascade for lunch rather than dinner because of the lovely location which is best appreciated during the day time. Another plus is that at lunch you can order an excellent €85 prix fixe that includes decent glasses of wine selected to match the dishes. I have to strongly support Julot's praise of this place.

              If there is a better all around 1 star restaurant I haven't found it.

              1. re: Laidback
                souphie RE: Laidback May 14, 2009 08:58 AM

                Glad that you had a good meal. The wine pairing was included in the 85€ menu? That's new and good.

                1. re: souphie
                  Laidback RE: souphie May 14, 2009 03:30 PM

                  I don't know how new but it was good. If my memory serves, the same menu without wine was €68, but at this level of beauty, service and cuisine who am I to quibble over a few Euros either way

            3. o
              orlenalee RE: lucilp May 10, 2009 03:14 PM

              Hi Lucille, We went to L'Auberge Bresanne yesterday. Let me tell you that if you are looking for a real authentic old fashion French cooking with excellent service, this is the place. You must make a reservation, the place was packed at 10 p.m. We arrived at 8 PM and there were already 3 couples there. We had jarellet de veau, super tender in a rich brown sauce which I wonder how they made it. My husband had a starter : poached eggs in wine sauce, to die for. He had duck breast, and our friend had filet de boeuf with friends. The waiter or sommelier recommended a 10-year old Bordeau wine, excellent. The waiters are all young, friendly and spoke good English. We had tap water, and they were fine with it. You must go to this restaurant. The total came 109E for people (we were so full we didn't have coffee and dessert). I think I will go back again before I leave Paris!

              5 Replies
              1. re: orlenalee
                l
                lucilp RE: orlenalee May 13, 2009 10:40 PM

                Thanks for the input on L'Auberge, it definitely help with our decision.

                1. re: lucilp
                  souphie RE: lucilp May 14, 2009 12:44 AM

                  I love l'Auberge and recommend it wholeheartedlly, but I wouldn't call it fine dining. It belongs more to the "traditional" category, like le Gourmet des Ternes, Joséphine, l'Auberge du Quincy, Chez Denise, Au Dernier Métro, Chez Georges porte Maillot, etc.

                  1. re: souphie
                    c
                    Cary RE: souphie May 14, 2009 12:52 PM

                    souphie, do you think reservations are necessary for l'Auberge Bressane? It's on my short list of restaurants for an impromptu dinner next week.

                    1. re: Cary
                      souphie RE: Cary May 14, 2009 01:47 PM

                      Reservations are always wise -- can you plan impromptu dinners?

                      1. re: souphie
                        o
                        olivierb RE: souphie May 15, 2009 02:52 AM

                        What souphie said.

                        It never hurts to call the restaurant before going. Even a few minutes before the desired reservation hour. At best, it can help secure an open/cancelled table, at worst, it saves a trip to the restaurant.

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